Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Stars


It was cold and clear as we walked back to our cars. I hugged the the others, and sat shivering while I waited for the windows to clear. I indicated, turned the car around, and waved goodbye as I turned onto the main road. 

The roads were quiet- it was a Sunday night, though quite early- and I sang along to the radio, loudly and happily, as I made my way out of the city. The news warned of ice further up the country but the Devon roads seemed safe. I indicated off the dual carriageway and took the moorland road- this had been my favourite route, when I had made this journey on a daily basis for work. 

I slipped past the last few houses and street lamps, and out towards the open countryside. The road was empty and silent. I drove faster than I should have perhaps, and as I wound towards home, I looked up through the windscreen. The sky was clear, and the moon illuminated the road in front of me. Even the animals who normally roamed these roads were inside, safe and warm. 

As I reached the highest point on my drive, I pulled into a lay-by. I switched off the headlamps and turned off the engine, sighing as the car shuddered into silence. I hadn't seen another car in a good twenty minutes, and I pulled the keys from the ignition, wound my scarf around my neck, and opened the door. 

The cold hit me hard. The temperature gauge has never worked on my car, and I hadn't been prepared for it. But I left my coat on the seat, locked the door, and stepped towards the edge of the hill. 

I closed my eyes, spread my arms wide, tipped my head back, and breathed deeply. The air was crisp and tickled my nose, but felt cleaner than any air I had breathed in weeks. Opening my eyes, I looked up at the sky.

As a child, whenever I couldn't sleep I would go to my bedroom window. I would look out at the sleeping street,  and up at the sky, at the millions and millions of stars, and think about how small I was. Even now, I do the same. In London, it doesn't have quite the same feeling- the street lamps make the entire sky press down heavily and glow orange, and the foxes scream, bringing me rapidly back down to earth. But in Devon, the sky is huge, spanning above me with more stars than I could ever begin to count. 

I take great comfort in the stars. As I stood on that hilltop, alone and silent, I gazed upwards and thought of the fact that those stars were shining on everyone I have ever loved. Whether they know I love them, knew I loved them, or will never know how much I love them- those same stars shine on every single one of them, silently watching, knowing more about their lives than I ever will. I often wonder, as I look up, whether any of these people are looking up too- and if they are, if they ever think of me while they do. Whether they ever think of me at all, actually. I wonder what they're doing, and if they're happy. I hope they are. 

The air was still and silent. My hands felt cold. I thought of you, whispered words that you are of course too far away to hear, and pulled my scarf a little closer.

Unlocking the car, I slipped back into my seat and rested my head against the steering wheel.

I put the car back into gear, turned back onto the road, and headed for home.  

Monday, 29 December 2014

Happiness Is... (vol.92)

Well, Christmas is over for another year.

The presents have been opened, the family have mostly departed, Mama is back at work and I'm left alone at home. It's incredibly peaceful- our little close is a quiet place at the best of times, but the thick frost this morning has completely muffled any sound, and I kind of feel like the only person in the world. It's a lovely feeling.

The car is completely rutted with ice, so currently I couldn't go anywhere even if I wanted to. And the only place I do want to go is for a run- but Sensible Alice has made an appearance and mandated that that isn't allowed until the temperature climbs above 0C (which should hopefully happen somewhere around lunchtime). It will also involve starting by running up a very big hill and I'm a little bit scared of that, so wish me luck.

So I'm planning to spend today reading, exercising, and piano playing. I feel a little like I should be making more of my time off, but being forced to take a really long stretch of time to do nothing is actually really nice. It is Christmas, after all.



Anyway. This week, happiness is...

... family time. Obviously. We always spend Christmas with Mama's side of the family, so Christmas day involved eleven adults, a cat, and a dog. I haven't laughed as much in forever, and it was so lovely to catch up with my cousin and his girlfriend- who I hadn't actually seen for two years, despite the fact that we all said it felt as though we'd seen each other the previous week. I also spent Boxing Day and 27th with Papatron, my stepmother, and Little L, so plenty of family time for me!

... Christmas leftovers. Come on, it can't just be me who loves the post-Christmas meals made up of all the leftover festive meats, salads, and cheese?! They're amazing, and I won't let anyone tell me otherwise.

... ice skating. Little L is currently having ice skating lessons, and got her very own skates for Christmas- so of course we had to try them out on 27th. I whizzed around the rink for an hour and a half, and impressed Papatron with my skating abilities- considering I'm incredibly clumsy on solid ground, I apparently am "surprisingly graceful" on ice (or so an ex boyfriend once told me). I managed not to fall over, and so I'm classing that as my very own Christmas miracle.

... my new Le Creuset. And all of my Christmas gifts, actually- I was thoroughly, thoroughly spoiled. But the Le Creuset is the one gift I can barely stop looking at- it's blue and beautiful and I am excited to have it forever.

... peaceful thoughts. As I mentioned yesterday, my brain was in overdrive when I first came home. It has now completely calmed, and while I'm sure it will ramp back up as I zoom towards my return to London, for the time being I'm appreciating the peace and quiet.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Time Out


When I got home on Saturday 20th December, I was a mess. 

I knew exactly why I was a mess, and I couldn't do anything about it. And on top of that, I had a cold- and I never get ill. As a result, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I couldn't think, and I spent days acting like a zombie. I curled up on the sofa, drinking endless cups of tea, and dreaming about the things I wanted to say. I almost completely shut down. 

But it's improving. My big brother arrived home a couple of days after I did and made me feel instantly better. I slept in a bed that doesn't squeak, and in a room that gets properly dark at night. I played the piano for hours upon hours, pouring myself into it. And then on Christmas Eve, the extended family arrived and I was thrown into Christmas chaos, with no time to think about anything but the celebrations at hand. I laughed with my brothers, drank champagne with my cousin's girlfriend, sat on the kitchen floor snuggling with the dog (who sadly isn't mine at all), and a smile spent a lot of time on my face. 

It would seem, therefore, that sleep, family, and tea have come together to pull me back together. 



I adore living in London, but it is HARD. I have a tendency to over-do it, and it leaves my work colleagues, family, and housemates worried about me. I push and push and do and do until the circles under my eyes take on a kind of permanence and I spend meetings ducking my head and trying not to yawn. G looks at me worriedly when I tell him that I'm away again at the weekend. E looks baffled when I explain that I spent my "quiet evening" baking enough cakes to feed a small army. D tells me I have to slow down and look after myself. And I'm not very good at listening to any of them. 

The week I have already had at home has done me the world of good- and the second week I am about to spend here will surely do the same. I feel rested and calm, my thoughts are ordered and sensible, and while obviously my demons are still there, they're a little quieter this week than they have been for a while. I am exceptionally lucky that I have got these two weeks off work- my work is actually closed now until 5th January, so I couldn't work even if I wanted to. It's blissful. 

I'm inevitably going to spend the next week busily building myself back up to return to the Big Smoke, but that's okay. I need a bit of busy to counter the calm, and vice versa. 

But I'm feeling much more like myself again, and for that I am incredibly grateful. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Just Because It's Christmas...

... and at Christmas you tell the truth. 

This is my life lately:


Reading. Only eye make up. A lot of tea. A little bit of chocolate- but not a whole lot of other food. Moisturiser to calm my rosacea. Notes of texts sent last Friday. And my antidepressants. 

My life has been turned upside down multiple times this year. And this is how I'm currently dealing with it. I'm hoping that having my family around me this Christmas will give me my sparkle back, and I've already decided that 2015 is going to be my year. 

But I mostly just wanted to say that if you're having a bit of a tough time this Christmas, you really aren't the only one. People being super cheerful and jolly can often only serve to make you realise that you don't feel cheerful and jolly. Just remember that it's okay to feel how you feel and be who you are. 

Happy Christmas everyone, and huge love to you all. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Happiness Is... (Vol. 91)

I'm writing this at gone 1am on Monday. This is not like me- I'm normally fast asleep by 11:30pm, so the fact that I'm still awake has really thrown me. Maybe it's the absolute deafening silence, or the actual pitch blackness- Devon is very different to London- or maybe it's this pesky cold that has been threatening to strike for about a week and seems to have chosen now to leave me sneezing and spluttering when I should be sleeping.

I'm back in Devon now and I couldn't have needed to be here more. I'm actually a little sad I'm not working today- I'll miss a lot of the pre-Christmas, post-Christmas party gossip- but I'm sure I'll be filled in soon. And it's Christmas week!! I'm still here hopelessly hoping for a sprinkle of snow, but mostly I'm just looking forward to some family time and some time where I don't have to think about anything very seriously.

This week, therefore, happiness is...



... Long train journeys. I had a four hour train journey home on Saturday afternoon, and I used probably 90% of that time to just sit and think. I worked through a lot of stuff in my head on that journey, and I'm happy I got the chance to do that. I'm also happy that my journey was completely stress free- the last two years, the train lines to Devon have been completely screwed at this time of year, so I'm incredibly happy that Mother Nature played nice for me. 

... The amazing shower at mama's house. The shower in my London flat is reasonable, but not great. The one here, however, is incredible- powerful, steaming hot, and absolutely great for singing in. Don't judge me, it was a Christmas carols only affair!


... Being back at the piano. Seriously, I sat for two hours straight at the piano teaching myself a new Chopin prélude on Sunday. I didn't get hugely far through it, but focusing on that was exactly what I needed- mostly because it stopped me from thinking about anything else.

... Excellent book recommendations. My friend J recommended The Secret History the other day, and I am SO glad he did. Hands down, best book I've read all year, and I'm only halfway through. I would HIGHLY recommend it. 



... Receiving Christmas cards. I came home to a huge bundle of Christmas cards, and had received a whole load in London too. I'm so happy that people I know still send them- who doesn't love a bit of festive post?! 

What's making you happy this week?


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Wants and Needs


We all do silly things sometimes. It's part of life, really. We make mistakes, we apologise, we move on. 

But what about when one of those things doesn't happen? When someone doesn't apologise, or you don't want to move on?

On Friday night, I was involved in something which had the potential to be a big problem for someone else, and I do hope that won't actually happen. I was selfish and silly, and I knew better. On Saturday, apologies were said, Christmas wishes exchanged, and I think things might be normal by the new year.  

But what if I don't want the old normal? What if, knowing what I now know, and thinking all the thoughts which have been swirling around my head, what if I want to change direction, and take this somewhere else?

But what if that isn't my choice?

It's the problem with other people really. You don't get a say in so many things which affect you. But I don't think I can do what I want to do in this situation. What I want to do is not the sensible thing, and between you and me, I can't really cope with complicated right now. And I don't want to make things difficult for myself.

What do you do when what you want and what you need are two very different things? You can tell yourself that you need the thing you want, but that doesn't mean it's true. 

I was selfish and now I am trying to be the opposite. And it's hurting in a way that surprises me. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Feeling Festive



The circles under my eyes are getting darker, post-work naps are becoming essential, and almost every evening is filled with some Christmassy do or other. 

But it's okay, because on Saturday I'll be heading back to Devon for two weeks of open fires, kitty cuddles, mulled wine, carols, and family time. I cannot wait. 

I love Christmas. I love all the festivities, and the food, and the music, and the drinks, and the food. (Yes, I'm aware I said food twice. But it really is my favourite bit. Mince pie, anyone?)

I wrote a little guest post for Charlotte all about my Christmas traditions- and you can find it over on her blog! Just writing it gave me the warm-and-squishies, and made me even more excited for the next couple of weeks. I'm a real traditionalist at heart, and love the familiarity of my family Christmas. I love that it runs more-or-less the same way every year, and I love having all of my family around.

If you want to know more about my family Christmas (and see a brilliant picture of us all wearing ridiculous Christmas hats), then you should definitely pop on over!

Do you have any festive traditions?

Monday, 8 December 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 90)

Just three more weeks (and a handful of days) are left of 2014. Every now and then, I go "where the hell did this year go?!" and then I kind of remind myself of most of the things I wrote in this post and go "Oh. That's where it went". 

I'm writing this after an afternoon spent entirely in the living room, watching films and trashy TV, writing Christmas cards and browsing for Christmas party dresses online (help me. I can't do clothes shopping at the moment, I don't like myself enough). I feel antsy and lazy and guilty- I'm not good at relaxing, I always feel like I should be doing- which at least is partially responsible for the enormous dark circles under my eyes.

I've spent the last few days being looked after by Mama CupandSaucer. She came to stay, wrapped me up in love, treated me to theatre trips and cups of tea, groceries and a listening ear. It was so lovely to have her here, and I feel slightly bereft now she's gone. But it's less than a fortnight until I'm home for Christmas (and I'm getting daily updates from Mama telling me how many "sleeps" are left), so I'm sure I'll make it, even if I feel like The Little Engine That Could at the moment.

Anyway. I'll stop whinging soon, I promise. I know I'm a bore at the moment, so we'll get back to regularly scheduled programming now. This week, happiness is...


... writing Christmas cards. Firstly, this makes me feel like such an adult- I mean, I know we all wrote the whole class Christmas cards in primary school (didn't we?), but writing proper Christmas cards with notes such as "Hope to see you in 2014!" feels terribly grown up. And secondly, making references to the awesome things my friends are doing feels so exciting. I got to address three cards to "Dr..." and I made references to weddings. Add that to all the cards that are going to homes that my friends actually own, and I'm left feeling like I could burst with pride. I have some superstars for friends.

... doing good deeds. Last weekend, I went to play with Charlotte, and she told Jenny and I all about the coat she desperately wanted for Christmas, but that had sold out online. When out with Mama CupandSaucer on Saturday, I popped into Petit Bateau and found the coat. So I picked it up for her, and I'm popping it in the post today. It's the least I could do for such a gorgeous human, and I hope it makes her very happy on Christmas morning.



... the return of my knitted Christmas tree. Yes, Mama CupandSaucer squashed Noel the Christmas Tree into her suitcase and brought him up to London for me. He's now going to adorn my desk at work for the next two weeks, and I couldn't be happier about it. We've also put up the Christmas tree in my flat, and it has chocolate decorations on it. I haven't had one of those since I was six.

... finally sorting my eyebrows out. Oh my god. I can't even remember the last time I plucked my eyebrows. Finally got around to it last night, and I must admit, I do feel better for it. 

... winning the best offspring/ sibling award. Apologies siblings, I get the prize this week. I trekked out to Toys R Us on a Saturday morning in December, just to pick up the one toy Little L wanted for Christmas this year. It's hideous, and I'm sure she'll be bored with it by February, but for now, I WIN.

What's making you happy this week?

Friday, 5 December 2014

Christmas Biscuits



I'm not really a biscuit baker. A cake maker, yes. But biscuits? Not so much.

I've never been able to find or create the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I make excellent shortbread, but will only make it if I have access to Guernsey butter- it's so much more delicious that way. Viennese whirls are a firm favourite- but, admittedly, a little faffy. Oat and raisin cookies are a bit too healthy for a bake, as far as I'm concerned. Which kind of leaves me in the situation where I don't want to make biscuits, because I can't work out what I want to put in them. 

I think it's because I'm a perfectionist. Cakes I can do. I can make them pretty, uniform, artfully messy, covered in chocolate... They're my comfort zone. And while I'm not exactly uncomfortable making biscuits... I just don't. 

However. I now work in an enormous open plan office, and making biscuits is suddenly a much better idea. You can make an enormous batch of biscuits so much more easily than making a huge batch of cupcakes. They're far more portable. And even those on perpetual diets will often nibble on a biscuit. 

So on Sunday afternoon, after I got back from visiting Charlotte and Jenny, I are myself to making some Christmas biscuits to take to work. Seriously- a monkey could make these. Or a small child, so if you have one (or a monkey) if suggest making these this weekend. And if you aren't a fan of spiced biscuits? Leave them out. Add lemon zest. Or almond extract. Or anything, really. You could sandwich these with Nutella or jam and buttercream. Or you can do as I did and turn them into a festive feast (or cut them into animal shapes/ letters/ hearts/ flowers/ boats/ cars, and make them appropriate for any occasion).

They're also super popular- I've been asked to make them again so many times, and been told they're a sign I'll be a great wife. Not sure what baking has to do with being a great materfamilias but hey ho. I'll take it is a compliment. 


Christmas Biscuits
Makes enough to feed my office. Which means "a lot". 

175g butter
200g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp mixed spice 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Splash vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of a clementine (or tangerine/ satsuma/ orange)
275g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder 

Icing sugar
Sprinkles
Red fondant/ smarties/ m&ms/ skittles

Festive shaped cookie cutters- I used stars, trees, and a gingerbread man 
A piping bag

Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the remaining ingredients.  

Place your bowl into the fridge until your dough is firm and stiff enough to roll out. If it isn't cold and firm, the shapes will spread in the oven and be a huge disappointment. Be patient. And preheat the oven to 170C

When your dough has firmed up, lightly flour a work surface. Grab a handful of your dough, and roll it out thinly. Cut out shapes and bake on a lightly oiled baking sheet for 10 minutes or until golden. You'll need to batch bake, so get a little assembly line going here- while one batch cools, get another in the oven and roll out a third. Leave any unbaked dough in the fridge for as long as possible. 

When your biscuits are baked and cooled, decorate using white icing. Mix icing sugar with a small amount of water until a VERY thick paste forms. Spoon into a disposable piping bag, snip the tiniest hole in the end, and let your imagination run wild! Star biscuits make pretty snowflakes, gingerbread men are a classic, and trees can be done by zigzagging the bag down the length of the tree and plonking a star shaped sprinkle at the top. 

To make a rudolf though... Turn your gingerbread man upside down. Pipe antlers on the "legs" turn the "arms" into ears, and dot eyes and a big red nose on to the head. Et voila! Reindeer, without a reindeer cutter. Genius. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Happiness Is... (Vol. 89)

I'm on complete Christmas countdown now. I am completely and utterly exhausted, and I am so unbelievably exciting to head back to Devon for TWO WHOLE WEEKS in just nineteen days time. I have the deepest love of Devon- though I don't currently want to live there. It's hard- I constantly feel the pull of Home, with the rolling hills, thick mist, star filled nights, and deep peaceful silence; but I know it really isn't the right place for me right now. I don't have PEOPLE there, and the people who are there are not my type of people. It's hard. 

I don't know exactly where I do want to end up, but I know I want to be close to the people I love. Currently, these people are scattered across the whole of The South, so I know I won't be going north anytime soon. I don't want to settle down yet though, so I have some time to think more carefully about where I want to be, who I want to be near, and what is really important to me. 

It's funny though, that the thing pulling me through these next few weeks is the idea of leaving the place I currently am. Maybe it's itchy feet? Maybe it's just a general feeling of "unsettled"? Who knows. All I know is that I am so hoping that I WANT to come back after two weeks at home. I'm scared about how I might feel at that point.

Anyway. This week, happiness is...


... Feeling festive. I had such a festive weekend, and it's left me feeling so excited for Christmas! I'm all about the Christmas songs, mince pies, panettone, and Christmas cards. It's lovely. Christmas biscuits help too- recipe will follow at some point...

... Short weeks. I'm only in work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week. I'm delirious about it. I'm utterly exhausted and utterly in need of a cuddle from Mama. I'm fully prepared for her to tell me I look exhausted and unwell, so I'm hoping the extra time will restore me a little. 


... Jenny and Charlotte. Oh, these girls are my absolute soul sisters. A lovely Christmassy weekend with them, full of girly giggles, Christmas songs, and cups of tea was so good for me this weekend. I wish they lived closer and we could play more often!

... Exciting porridge toppings. Mr TTDER (aka Sebastian) made the four of us delicious caramelised banana porridge on Sunday morning. It was INCREDIBLE- properly indulgent, absolutely perfect for a Sunday morning. Thank you S!!!

... My enormous cashmere jumper. I may or may not have kept an XL Uniqlo cashmere jumper a boy gave me about six years ago. It's dark grey and incredibly soft, and I wear it at every opportunity. 

What's making you happy this week? 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Advent

I love Advent. I love the fact that even the Scroogiest of people can no longer really say that it's too early to be getting excited about Christmas. I can watch Christmas films, write Christmas cards, start wrapping presents, and sing as much as I want. 



I was in Waitrose last night picking up mince pies and a little panettone (Christmas food is amazing) and while I was browsing, I saw a little girl peering through the glass of the cake display. 

"Mummy", she called "Why are there men with beards on top of that cake?"
"They're the Three Wise Men, darling", her mother replied "They're on their way to see the baby Jesus. As I keep telling you, Christmas isn't really all about Father Christmas. It's Jesus' birthday!"

I think that's the thing. Amongst all the Black Friday deals, amazing Christmas food, festive drinks and Christmas parties, it's really really easy to forget what this whole holiday is about. Regardless of whether you believe in God, and Jesus, and whatever- at the end of the day, this is a religious festival.


As much as I adore the incredible Lindt advent calendars I've been sent (they really are so incredible, I feel so spoiled!), part of me thinks that perhaps I should return to the more traditional type of calendar. Perhaps we should all be reminded about what Christmas and Advent are really about. I mean- Christingle services, and the lighting of the Advent calendars, and Nativity plays were always some of my favourite parts of the run up to Christmas as a child. So why do I let these things slide now I'm an adult?

That said. I'm feeling more festive this year than I have in an absolute age. Maybe it's a London thing. Maybe it's just completely random. But I'm so pleased that I'm able to feel festive this year.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

On The Year That's Been




This year has been tough, no?

Maybe it's just me. Maybe it isn't just me. But in 2014, I've started  new jobs (twice) and moved cities (twice). I've lived in four different houses, with nine different people. I found a boyfriend. I broke up with that boyfriend. I've played for multiple korfball teams. I've visited Dorset and Cornwall and Wiltshire and Lincolnshire and Norfolk and Kent. I've been to Barcelona and convinced a waitress I speak fluent Spanish (I don't). I've made friends and drifted apart from friends. I've celebrated engagements. I've mourned the loss of a grandparent. I've lost weight- and gained it all back again and more. I've baked a wedding cake, and brownies and countless cupcakes. I've drank wine and gin and something like 371031 ml of tea (I worked it out. I''d say I drink an average of four half-pint (284 ml) mugs of tea a day. So 284 x 4 x 365 = 371031. Jesus). I've drank so few cups of coffee they could probably all be counted on my fingers and toes. I've sobbed and I've laughed and I've found myself lying on the floor wondering what the hell is going on- both drunkenly at 3am and soberly at 3pm.

I've had to deal with so much this year, and my poor little brain has just about given up on it. This year I've been fine and not fine and everything in between. 

But it hasn't been the worst year on record. It really hasn't. It's not been the best year on record either though.


I've achieved so much this year. I'm really so proud of myself for being so bloody BRAVE this year- both in ways people know about (like moving jobs) and in ways people don't (which I'm not going to talk about). I've impressed myself, and I've apparently blown other people away. I've been generous and I've been selfish and I've been kind and I've been mean.

I feel like I'm ending 2014 knowing myself a little better than I did on 1st January. I've been SO unbelievably hard on myself this year when I should be proud of everything I've done. But while that isn't in my nature, I at least have a camp full of cheerleaders yelling and screaming for me every step of the way. I'm finishing 2014 feeling battered and bruised and hurt and lost and sad but just a little hopeful. At one point, I never thought I'd make it to 2014, let alone the whole way through it. And maybe that in itself is something to be proud of.

2014 has been a rollercoaster. And we still have another whole month left of 2014. But at least I have socially-accepted daily chocolate (more on my AMAZING advent calendars to come) and more mince pies than I can shake a stick at to get me through December.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 88)


I should probably branch out in my breakfast choices, but porridge is just so bloody delicious that I kind of don't want to. And when you stir raisins and blueberries through, then add more blueberries and walnuts on top? It's a little bowl of perfection, let me tell you. And it's even sweeter knowing that I rescued these blueberries from the reduced to clear section. My local Tesco has the world's worst stock management system, which means treats like this happen on a pretty damn regular basis. Is that a bad thing? No, no not at all.

I'm waffling. (Porridging?). This week, happiness is...

... finding half a packet of sweets in your coat pocket, left over from when you went on a walk four weeks ago. Is it just me who does this? Who tucks sweets in her pocket for long walks, and then forgets all about them? It's so much fun to find them though, when you jam your hands into your pockets when you're on your way to the supermarket. 

... finding the perfect black jeans. I mean seriously. Uniqlo's Ultra Stretch Ankle Length black jeans fit me perfectly (and the ones I ended up buying are two sizes smaller than I originally thought I needed). I haven't actually worn them yet- I knew I'd be baking yesterday and decided black jeans weren't the best thing to wear for that- but I am so excited to pair them with a stripy top and ankle boots, or white blouse and a maroon blazer. 

... coming home to the most ridiculously clean flat. We got a cleaner, you guys. It's not because we're lazy- though we kind of are- it's because two out of the three of us are just a little too busy to want to clean in our little bit of spare time, and the third was starting to get a little resentful. She is amazing and it's the best money any of us have ever spent.


... Fiorentina hot chocolates, consumed sitting at a pavement side table (in November!) in Marylebone with your oldest friend who is more hungover than you, and cheers you up with some of the best boy stories I've ever heard, told in the most entertaining way possible.

... Fortnum & Mason. It's so unbelievably charming, I wanted to move in. I picked up a couple of foodie gifts for Christmas presents and I am going to find it so hard not to just keep them for myself.

What's making you happy this week?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

What Are You Doing?


I'm aware I'm really a shockingly bad blogger.

I think the problem is that I'm not really feeling blogging in the same way as I used to. I'm finding myself drawn to posts about thoughts and feelings and happenings and considerations these days. I've long loved Meg's blog, and perhaps I'll take this space of mine in that direction- more writing, less waffling. Or perhaps not. Chances are though, I'll just keep it here to update as an when I want, about what I want.

I don't care about page views. I don't care about follower numbers. I don't care if this is just a shout into the void and no one reads it at all. If a blog post is written and no one reads it, does it exist?

But if you are reading... 

Lately I've been listening to Serial. If you haven't heard about it, oh my god you are missing out. It's an incredibly interesting true story of the conviction of Adnam Syed for the murder of Hae Min Lee. I don't want to say any more than that, but do listen to it- just perhaps not when you're walking home alone along the side of Clapham Common in the dark, okay?

I told him the walking-home-in-the-dark-listening-to-Serial story in the pub on Friday and he looked at me dead on. You didn't actually do that, did you? I told him that of course I had, I'm a big girl and I'm braver and stronger than I look, and why does it matter anyway? Apparently, when walking home, I should have no headphones in, my keys in my hand, sensible shoes on (ready to run), and just paying attention. Bless.

I think he overreacted. Or perhaps that's just another example of being reckless with myself? Who knows.

I've been sort of falling apart at the seams. My mental health really isn't the best right now, and admitting that is a pretty big deal. I kind of dropped it on my mum over the phone while I was shopping in Fortnum & Mason on Saturday morning. I just kind of went "Mama I got really sad after I'd been in the pub last night" and she guessed straight away exactly what I meant. She's worried, I'm worried, my boy bestie JH is worried- but I am okay, and I will be okay. So there's that.

I'm making headway on Christmas present shopping! I have something ridiculous like eighteen people to buy for, so it's kind of necessary. I've sorted my cousin and his partner, and I'm nearly there with my brother and my sister-in-law-to-be. I know what I want to get for my little sister, and I think I know what I'm doing for a few others... so I'm getting there. Time is an issue- I'm so busy over the next few weeks- but at least I have ideas, right?!

This is my first full weekend in London in about six weeks, and I'm making the most of it. I did some proper London shopping (I hit up Fortnum & Mason, Liberty, and Selfridges, in one morning). I sat outside a cafe with my oldest friend and drank thick thick hot chocolate while we screamed with laughter over her boy gossip. And I'll be making mince pies, soda bread, and sleeping in this weekend too, while listening to yet more of Serial (I have catching up to do), and Euneirophrenia- go on, click the link and give your ears a treat. Euneirophrenia is also a great word- it means the peace of mind that comes from having pleasant dreams. It's a new favourite.

I'd say that's enough for now. I'll be back soon, promise.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

To The Men I Fall In Love With On Trains

In particular, this is to the beautiful beard-sporting, tweed-coat-wearing, sheet-music-reading man I saw on the train to Wiltshire early on Saturday morning. He genuinely made my heart skip several beats.



Here's to spotting a handsome stranger on the train. 

Here's to angling yourself ever so slightly more elegantly in your seat. 

Here's to sneaking glances to see what they're reading. 

Here's to carefully choosing the music you listen to, in case they should by some random chance ask you about it. 

Here's to those moments of eye contact where your heart suddenly starts thumping in your chest. 

Here's to glancing away, only to glance back seconds later. 

Here's to finding him still looking at you. 

Here's to feeling your heart pound, just hoping he'll come over and say hello.

Here's to watching him gather his things, two stops before yours. 

Here's to sadly watching him step off the train, perhaps with a wistful smile. 

Here's to sighing and sinking back into your seat, feeling bereft. 

Here's to the next time. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

I Made A Wedding Cake



Well, if not (and you can't be bothered to click through- last December, S commissioned me to make her wedding cake. And to be completely honest, between then and June I kind of put the entire thing out of my head because I was just so worried about it. A wedding cake is a huge deal for a lot of people, and while S and P are very laid back, I knew that if I messed this up, they'd be so sad, and I couldn't do that to them.

So back in June, the three of us went for coffee and talked ideas. We established that their colour scheme would be ivory, navy, and silver, and that they wanted a simple, traditional cake. They asked for three tiers, enough cake to serve up to 70 people, and for the middle layer to be sponge, while the top and bottom layers were fruit.


In the end, I took a whole week off work around the wedding (which was a Thursday) to enable me to make the cake in a relatively stress free way back in Devon. I made the fruit layers back at the end of August (as fruit cake is best when it matures and you feed it. Consider it a new pet, albeit one that you feed with brandy.), but had to marzipan and ice them in the days running up to the event. 

I did have a small mishap when it came to the sponge layer, however. I may possibly (read: definitely) have made the sponge layer an inch too small- which sounds like nothing, but trust me, it was a big problem. Cue an 11pm dash to the nearest Tesco (read: a good 15 minute drive away) for a new correctly sized tin where, in my panic, I bought the wrong sized tin again. So Mama CupandSaucer took pity on me, drove out to Tesco again- this time with the cake board in tow to check the size- and left me re-making my cake batter. In the end, I think I got to bed around 2am, still with all the cake filling, icing, stacking, and decorating to do. Yeah.

Oh, and once it was all made and stacked, I had to transport it 30 miles across Devon in thick fog. 


So here are my top ten tips for making a wedding cake! Obviously, I have made a grand total of one so you know, I'm no expert but still, for a beginner, these might help:

1- Always check your cake tin sizes. Obviously.
2-  Fondant smoothers are the best things in the world. You will not get a decent finish without them. 
3- Don't over stretch yourself. If you aren't an experienced decorator, think simple- it's so much more elegant than a messy attempt at something fancy.
4- Get a little saw for your dowel. It's harder to cut than you'd think
5- A yoga mat under the cake box in the boot of your car will stop it from going anywhere
6- Use recipes you have practiced and are comfortable with. This isn't a time to experiment.
7- Royal icing sets like cement, so is the best thing to use between layers to stop them from moving. This will particularly help if your layers aren't perfectly flat.
8- But really, when you trim your cake layers. use a spirit level (yes, really) to check it- then turn it upside down before you marzipan and fondant the cake
9- Put each cake layer on a board the exact same size as the cake, then treat it as part of the cake- that is to say, make sure you drop the marzipan and fondant down to cover the board as well as the cake!
10- Make sure your cake layers are even heights. And if they aren't, you could either trim them or use cake boards of different thicknesses under each layer 


And a bonus no. 11-  Enjoy it! You're getting to be such a cool part of someone's special day- it's something to enjoy, not fear!

So yeah! I learnt a hell of a lot making this cake. And I absolutely cannot wait to make another.

Oh, and that wasn't my only wedding thing of last week. I also received my invitation for my brother's wedding, helped Mama choose her outfit for my brother's wedding, discussed cupcake favours with my brother and his fiancee, went to S and P's evening reception, and chatted everything wedding-y  over brunch with my friend LR, who is getting married next August. Seriously- no more weddings until the New Year. Thank you kindly.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Happiness Is... (Vol. 87)

I really didn't mean to miss as many of these posts as I have. Life has just been a bit funny recently- lots of weekends away, in particular, which tend to mean less time to write these posts. I'm keen to get back into blogging though- I'm aware that while I used to be super consistent, i'm now rather inconsistent, and a bit flighty. Sorry about that. I'm actually writing this on the train back to London following a week in Devon. I've eaten a slice of cake, and watched Frozen for the umpteenth time (never gets old), so figured this was next on my To Do list for the journey. 

I'm not going to lie- I'm sad to be going back to London. I completely broke down on Mama CupandSaucer in Costa on Sunday morning, a fortnight ago I cried on the Tube on my way back from seeing Jenny, and three weeks ago, I sobbed my heart our to my friend J  during out Wiltshire weekend. Turns out, I've been crying a lot lately. I might write a post about the reasons behind these breakdowns, but for now, let's just say that while my former boss recently told me that in the last ten months my rise has been nothing short of meteoric, I feel more like I've been fired out of a cannon and I'm flailing around in a new city, with new people, in a new job, trying to work out how to fly rather than fall. 

But it's okay. I have the next four months nearly chunked into four-week blocks between exciting things (and sometimes with extra exciting things interspersed), and I have the support of my Mama, even if I feel a little lost and lonely, and I think I could be okay. 

Anyway! More on that to come, I'm sure. Generally, I am okay, and this week, happiness is...

... Work trips. The week before I went on annual leave, I was sent on a work expedition to The North (also known as Lincoln). I went to an awesome conference, networked successfully, and left feeling energised and enthusiastic about my line of work. Don't you just love things like that!?

... Paolo Nutini's Caustic Love and Rumer's Boys Don't Cry. These two albums have been the soundtrack to the epic amounts of travelling I have done recently, and both albums are awesome (top songs: Rumer's version of Home Thoughts From Abroad, and Paolo's One Day)


... Devon air. I hadn't been back to Devon since the week before I moved to London in August- and I think that's the longest I've ever gone without visiting. It was so lovely to be back, to catch up with my mama, my brother, my sister-in-law-to-be, my friend J (another J, yes), Papa, Little L, and LR, who I haven't seen in god only knows how long. It was completely needed. 

... New make up and make up brushes. Can you believe that I've never owned any nice make up brushes before now?! I treated myself to Real Technique's stippling and blush brushes, and they have made so much difference to the way my face looks. As has Smashbox's BB Cream- that stuff gives such great coverage for a BB cream. Colour me impressed. 


... Hilarious compliments. An older man from Colorado said to me on Thursday night: "Alice, you have my number, right? Because we could do with a beautiful young chef to come and bake cakes for us..." . Of course, I told him I'd be happy to fly out whenever- but that my few would have to include First Class flights.

What's making you happy this week?

Friday, 31 October 2014

Taking Control


I've been rather silly recently.

I have an ex who was the one person I've ever been completely silly about- a guy we'll call D. D and I were together for about a year, I guess, and broke up just over two years ago. We've never completely stopped talking though- and the power of social media means we've always been able to keep kind of abreast of each others' lives. And recently, we started talking again- sending messages back and forth most days.

Isn't this just the most stupid thing ever!?

Despite being warned of my stupidity by numerous friends (including Jenny- she's very smart with the life advice), I carried on chatting to D. "What harm could it do?" was my standard response. D and I live like 200 miles apart. We aren't likely to ever run into each other in the street. I kept giving him opportunities to stop the conversation, and he didn't, so I carried on too.

But one day this week, I woke up and thought to myself "What the hell are you doing?!". I suddenly realised that there was absolutely no benefit to be had from talking to him.

So I took control, and I stopped the conversation.

Much like our relationship, I now see that D was probably using me to bolster his own confidence. And hey- ain't nobody got time for that. I was enjoying the chatter, but I realised after a while that I was gaining absolutely nothing from it. At the end of our relationship, I was left feeling completely mashed up, and it took a long time to get back to normal. Why on earth would I even remotely put myself back in that position!?

It feels good to take control, even if it's only over a small thing like not talking to someone who doesn't make me feel phenomenal. There's so much in my life at the moment which isn't in control- so taking the reins over this feels pretty damn good.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

My Weekend Was Mostly Spent...


... leaving work ten minutes early because I was just too excited to sit still for a moment longer
... waiting impatiently for L at Paddington Station
... stocking up on train snacks
... helping L transcribe her interview on the train
... watching the most beautiful sunset from the train window
... squealing with delight at the proper darkness and cool, fresh Wiltshire air
... greeting MH at her car with massive enormous hugs
... being greeted at the farm by four very excitable dogs
... being handed a gin and tonic by MK while squeezing JH and N
... listening to J explain his nightmare living situation (does anyone know anyone looking for a housemate in Oxford?!)
... tucking into them most delicious chicken and ham pie
... drinking rioja and chatting about everything
... making an impromptu pudding of ice cream, banana slices, and melted chocolate
... greeting JT and B with squeals and hugs
... having a second pudding of profiteroles
... drinking more wine
... listening to J and MK swap stories of odd things they'd seen at work
... tumbling into bed beside L and hoping she didn't have any nightmares


... waking up early
... padding downstairs in my PJs to be greeted by MH, MK, and MH's brother
... breakfasting on bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast
... sipping cup after cup of tea
... waiting for the others to surface
... pulling on my new jumper
... heading into Marlborough for a potter
... lusting over Joules and Susie Watson bits and pieces
... sipping coffee and eating a giant cookie
... picking up brownie ingredients


... eating the most enormous lunch of cheese, fresh baguettes, and soup
... having a doze on the sofa
... being woken for tea and cake


... taking the dogs out for a little wander
... watching B and MK trying to set a bonfire alight
... getting caught in the rain
... feeling smug that I had worn a raincoat


... feeding the chickens and checking for eggs
... making brownies for pudding
... dressing for dinner
... greeting MH's brother and sister in law and their adorable border terrier
... being presented with a gin and tonic and crisps to nibble
... deciding I didn't like my outfit and changing
... drinking more gin and wine
... sitting down to a supper of pork fillet marinated in garlic and herbs wrapped in parma ham, served with dauphinoise potatoes and green veg
... devouring a bowlful of brownie, ice cream, and raspberries for pudding
... leaving the table for a little chat with JH
... breaking down, venting, and sobbing on JH for a good while
... rejoining the group for a round of the After Eight game
... getting overly competitive
... eating the most incredible cheese and delicious crackers
... moving on to Guess Who (the version where you have to guess the celebrity name on your forehead)
... having my piece of paper stuck to my head with cheese
... stumbling to bed at goodness only knows what time


... waking early
... being greeted in the kitchen by five very excitable dogs
... waving MH, MK, JT, and B off on a bike ride
... having a quick shower
... chatting to MH's sister-in-law, who popped in for breakfast
... checking the chickens and finding nine eggs
... making pancakes on the aga
... eating the most carby breakfast ever and loving every second of it


... lacing up my walking boots and pulling on my raincoat
... holding onto the border terrier while we drove deeper into the countryside
... walking along with the dogs and the girls while the boys (minus JH) stomped ahead
... feeling oh so loved
... saying hello to the cows in the fields as we passed


... throwing a tennis ball for the dogs
... popping into the pub for a quick one
... getting back to the house over three hours after we first left
... sitting down huge lunch of beef casserole and mashed potatoes
... following it up with yet more cake


... saying sad goodbyes
... being driven to the train station
... standing wearily on the platform, wishing the weekend didn't have to end.

Tell me. What did you get up to this weekend?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 86)

I hadn't realised quite how much I missed country air, proper darkness, and birdsong until I arrived in Wiltshire with L on Friday night. We stepped off the train, straight into MH's waiting arms (and car) and were whisked off for a weekend at the farm. I'll be giving you full details tomorrow- in a my weekend was mainly spent... style post, but needless to say, it was the most wonderful weekend, and it completely soothed my soul. I hadn't even realised quite how much my soul needed it until I was there.

Anyway! I'm going in to the new week tired and happy and a little more ready to face everything that might be thrown at me. It's a nice feeling. And this week, happiness is... 


... my uni bests. Oh my god, I absolutely adore my university friends. I never feel quite so much myself as I do when I'm with these people. We caught up, laughed, ate unbelievable amounts of incredible food and generally enjoyed each other's company. I love the seven people I spent this weekend with so, so much, and I am so happy to be able to spend time with them.

... sending stroppy emails. We're having a whole host of issues with our flat at the moment, not least the fact that we have had a number of sightings of mice. It's awful, and incredibly upsetting- but I wrote the most stonking grumpy email to our letting agents about it all last night, and I felt so much better as a result. It was great fun!


... time spent with dogs. Historically, I have described myself as a cat person. But I spent my weekend with three labradors, a young border terrier, and an old (mostly blind) Jack Russell. Safe to say, these dogs (and my brother's adorable sproodle) are pretty quickly turning me into a dog person. I want one! (Just not while I'm living in the big city)

... after dinner games. Oh my gosh, we had so much fun playing the After Eight game and Guess Who (as in, where you have to guess the name of the person written on your forehead). Absolutely hilarious- there's nothing like some gentle competition after a small feast to round off your evening nicely.


... a successful practice of a wedding cake. I made a practice of the sponge layer of the wedding cake I'm making this weekend, and I was so happy with how it came out!! (It's the one on the right of hte picture) Perfectly light sponge, not too sweet, and didn't stale too quickly. And the uni bests gave me some pretty great feedback too, which is always pretty lovely.


What's making you happy this week?

Friday, 10 October 2014

Strength


I had a hard day yesterday.

Yesterday, I was reading a report which brought up a whole host of memories of very difficult things. And then I looked at the calendar, and all of a sudden realised that those very difficult things happened exactly six years ago today. 

I emailed my boss (who sits opposite me), and told him I was struggling. He pulled me aside, told me off for apologising for the tenth time that day, and told me to "put away the damn report" for the time being, and deal with it at another time. "Look at something else, Alice. While we have a particular affinity for issues that have affected us directly, I do not need you doing this today, certainly not tomorrow, or until you are ready to do it."

My boss is a very compassionate man, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

But in having this conversation, I realised how far I have come. How much stronger I am now than I was six years ago. Mama spoke to E a few days after I saw him, and he told her that I'm "the best I've seen her in a long time". I am so much more capable now of dealing with the things life throws at me. Before, I completely shut down. There was no part of me that could cope with the things that were going on six years ago. But now I can at least try to deal with the things life throws in my path.

And while I will never again be the girl I was seven, ten, fourteen years ago- now, I know that even when things get really, really difficult, there is a now small part of me which will not give up. I have dealt with some incredibly incredibly difficult things in my life- as we all have, really- but I am still here. I'm still walking tall, and smiling, and laughing. I haven't given up on the world. I may be cynical, but I still believe that people are good, that things can change, and that the world may be a difficult place but nothing so far has been insurmountable. 

I am so much stronger than I ever really knew I could be.

And if that night six years ago had not happened, I would not be who I am today.